debate over maitenence of cemetery in Norwood

residents upset over the way cemetery is being taken care of in Norwood

update: norwood will erect a low stone wall fence around the cemetery

The town will erect a low, stone wall around a 300-year-old cemetery, laying to rest a two-year battle between historians and residents. Council members said they wanted to protect the historic Haring Cemetery, which dates to the 1700s and contains the remains of Bergen County’s earliest settlers. The area, which is in the middle of several back yards, was previously unmarked and overgrown with trees and weeds.

The cemetery, located off Meadow Lane, has been a source of controversy as historical groups and neighbors argued about how to best preserve the site. Historians were concerned that additional stones have been covered up over time. They lobbied to erect a fence around the cemetery while the neighbors feared such delineation would create an eyesore. The borough council decided that a wall made of Belgian block less than a foot high and 66 feet square would be a fair compromise.

“We want to preserve the site but we don’t want it to be overly conspicuous for the sake of the neighbors,” said Councilman Barry Scott, who has been working on the plan for two years. Scott estimated that the wall would cost between $5,000 and $7,000. “This is a big step,” said Rich Williams, chairman of the Norwood Historic Preservation Committee, adding that he’s thrilled with the council’s move to protect the historic landmark. “It’s been a long time in the works. We’re very happy with this. Now we hope to do some landscaping around the area.”

Robert Garner, a neighbor of the cemetery, who had initially opposed the fence, said he was not present at the meeting. He is now having trouble confirming the height of the fence. “If it will be 4 to 6 inches of a cobblestone that blends into the area, then we will be satisfied,” he said Monday. Ownership of the cemetery can be traced to John Haring. When he died in 1802, he didn’t deed the land to anyone. For years the cemetery was ownerless.

The borough recently took ownership at the urging of historic groups that wanted to protect the gravestones. Among those buried in the cemetery are Abraham Haring, who died in 1801 and Betsey Bogert, who died in 1890. Recently, the preservation committee obtained a $1,829 grant that allowed them to hire an expert to restore the aging tombstones, which were toppled over, said Scott. “Now it looks a lot better.” The next step, he said, is to remove the weeds and tall grass surrounding the stones. The council hopes to proceed with plans for the fence in the spring. “The idea is to delineate the area,” said Borough Clerk Lorraine McMackin. “It will be non-obtrusive.”

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